The Detroit Tigers are tied for the lead in the American League Central division with the Kansas City Royals. That is a fine place to be obviously but it doesn’t guarantee things are going well for the team. Luckily most things are going well for the Tigers. Prince Fielder is having an MVP first month and the combo of Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson continues to tear up the rest of baseball. Justin Verlander is as solid as ever but there is one thing that could be much better: the bullpen.
From the middle of spring training things began to look shaky in the Tigers pen. Nothing is set in stone down there. There are no defined roles for anyone. Though Jim Leyland and staff have given good reasons as to why this is, it still needs to be fixed to maximize the Tigers potential. First things first, they are pitching a lot out of the pen. There are teams that are successful in the pen that have thrown more innings, but those are bullpens with defined roles throughout.
When the guys don’t know what to expect day in and day out, it clearly and largely affects how well they prepare and how well they pitch. It is kind of a catch-22 however. Leyland can’t just hand out defined positions for everyone in the pen because they really aren’t performing that well. See how one leads into the other? The lack of defined roles affects their performance and their performance hinders them receiving defined roles.
Where this will stop is anyone’s guess but somewhere down the line the guys need to be given a job. Even if it is random it might be better than what they have now. The affect so far is a 5.59 ERA which is ranked 26th in the majors and a 1.54 WHIP which is 27th ranked in the majors. The main problem that feeds into those two stats is the amount of walks. The Tigers bullpen has dealt more walks than any other pen in the game.
It kind of becomes a question like what came first, the chicken or the egg? Will defined roles lead to better pitching or will it take better pitching to gain defined roles? If I were the deciding factor I think I would just pick some guys to pitch in a role. If it works then great and if it doesn’t work they would be no worse off than they are now.